What Is Your Credit Score and How Can You Improve It?

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A credit report is a detailed up-to-date report of your credit history. It shows banks/lenders the level of risk if they lend you money. It is also an indicator of how consistently you pay off your bills and debts. Your credit score is one of the factors lenders consider when qualifying you for a mortgage. A good credit score, for example, can help improve your chances of being approved.

To find out your credit score, contact Canada’s two credit-reporting agencies: Equifax Canada andTransUnion Canada. These agencies can provide you with an online copy of your credit score as well as a credit report – a detailed summary of your credit history, employment history and personal financial information.

If you find any errors in your report, notify the credit-reporting agency and the organization responsible for the inaccuracy immediately.

Improving Your Credit Score

  • If your credit score is not as high as you think it should be, make sure that the information in your credit report is correct. If it is correct, read your report carefully to find out which factors are most likely having a negative influence on your score, and then work to improve them.Here are some tips, from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), on how to improve your credit score:
    • Always pay your bills on time. Although the payment of your utility bills, such as phone, cable and electricity, is not recorded in your credit report, some cell phone companies may report late payments to the credit-reporting agencies, which could affect your score.
    • Try to pay your bills in full by the due date. If you aren’t able to do this, pay at least the required minimum amount shown on your monthly credit card statement.
    • Try to pay your debts as quickly as possible.
    • Don’t go over the credit limit on your credit card. Try to keep your balance well below the limit. The higher your balance, the more impact it has on your credit score.
    • Reduce the number of credit applications you make. If too many potential lenders ask about your credit in a short period of time, this may have a negative effect on your score. However, your score does not change when you ask for information about your own credit report.
    • Make sure you have a credit history. You may have a low score because you do not have a record of owing money and paying it back. You can build a credit history by using a credit card.
    • Once your credit score has improved, work with a mortgage professional to obtain a mortgage that meets your individual needs.

Are You Thinking About Hiring a Company To Repair Your Credit?

Beware of companies that promise to help you re-establish your credit for a fee. Their ability to change the information that appears in your credit file is no different than anyone else’s. Only your creditors are able to alter this information; therefore you do not need to pay a third party to obtain, discuss, review or make changes to your credit report. You have the right to access your information and make changes to your file if there is an inaccuracy or if you want to include a comment.
 

 If you are thinking of hiring someone to repair your credit, remember:

  • A credit bureau will not remove accurate negative information from your credit report before the legal time period has expired; therefore, do not believe anyone who claims they can get negative information removed from your credit report faster than is legally required
  • There are no “loopholes” or laws that credit repair companies can use to get correct information off your credit report.
  • No credit repair company can do anything you can’t do for yourself. It is impossible for a third party to make changes in your file if the facts have been correctly reported. There are individuals and companies that claim they can fix a bad credit file. This is not the case. If a file includes accurate, yet negative information about your credit history, this information cannot be changed. Information will only be changed when your file contains an inaccuracy
  • The only way to rectify a poor credit rating is to adopt sound credit practices for a period of time

Find Out More

To find out more about credit scores and reports, visit the Financial Consumer Agency of Canadawebsite and download or request a free copy of their guide, Understanding Your Credit Report and Credit Score. This guide provides practical, straightforward information on how to obtain and understand your credit report and score, as well as how to build and maintain a good credit history.

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